Recent blog posts - WebSubstance - Web Design and Search Engine Marketing - Page 4

Content Marketing: Time to Go Beyond Blog

Quite a few companies in many industries are realizing that a blog does a lot for a business. It's a kind of steady marketing addition that provides a stream of page views from interested users, whether they're on laptop or desktop computers or mobile phones. Blogs are a way of creating a great conversation with potential customers. But these days, with so many companies having implemented blogs already, some of the smartest and most forward-thinking firms are looking beyond this medium for new opportunities to interact with an audience online.

Go In-Depth with Long-Form Content

Some companies are moving toward a strategy that includes creating more technical content -- writing white papers, or e-books, or other in-depth materials that people want to scroll through, or even print out. A “white paper” is something that sounds authoritative and can provide inside wisdom on a particular industry or process. Likewise, an e-book promises to be more than just a passing message.

Some of the value propositions here are around thought leadership and the ability to generate detailed information about an industry. Companies even hire journalists or others to go in and do specific long-form pieces that give the company an authoritative voice on their field or industry.

Infographics and Slideshows: Visual Appeal

Companies also like to gravitate towards visual resources such as slideshows and infographics. In particular, infographics are very popular right now because of the way they blend traditional text reading and visual appeal. You see a mix of short text blurbs and clever, attractive and compelling images. You get facts extremely quickly, and internalize messages without having to read through full documents.

In addition, companies are looking to reinvent their old material by, for instance, repurposing blog posts into infographics and other more visual pages.

Do I Want Video?

Video is a tough one. Some companies will stay away, because of the issue of whether low-bandwidth users and those on aging machines will want to click in and access these data-rich media pieces. However, video can be extremely effective for “show and tell” – where a business doesn’t want to restrict outreach to crabbed rows of letters on a page. One solution is to embed youtube videos into a page, so that users can always access the streaming video right through the aggregate site.

Rich Media for a Local Business

These types of marketing materials can be a great way to put companies in touch with a local audience or customer base in a community. For instance, a well-placed infographic can give readers a choice -- whether they want to put on their reading glasses and go through a detailed blog post, or just look at a series of fast facts and consider what a given company has to offer.

At WebSubstance, we excel at helping companies to find the right online footprint. We know how to integrate rich media results into websites -- to add things like infographics, slideshows and long-form content to what used to be a generic corporate site. Ask us about how to improve your web presence today.

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Why Local Businesses Can No More Ignore Mobile-Friendly Sites

The news is in from business publications, studies and marketing departments around the world. Mobile has taken over.

For a growing number of businesses, it's not whether to initiate vibrant mobile-friendly campaigns. It's when, and how. Companies are jumping on the bandwagon, not just because it's an attractive trend, but because more and more of their customer base is doing business predominantly over mobile platforms. That means if a business doesn't have a mobile-friendly component, it really loses out.

But mobile strategy is more than just building a responsive website. It's more than just making sure that when people look up a business on their smart phone, they get a screen they can read. Mobile-friendly marketing means tailoring what the business does to the mobile interface. Here are some mobile strategies that pay off big in today's smartphone-centric world.

Blogging About Objectives

One way to engage over mobile is to create a blog that's constantly updated, that underscores the company’s goals and objectives, as well as its history, its corporate culture and the biggest things that it has to offer customers. The blog serves a few purposes – it drives reader engagement, and also helps to define the company in a mobile context.

Of course, this blog has to be mobile-friendly. It needs to be designed so that titles and text are easily viewed, and read on the spot. It has to be made so that the smartphone user can click into the landing site, and then into the blog, without scrolling around looking for buttons or menus.

Address Particular Mobile Environments

Businesses have to decide whether they will run their mobile content through the Internet or through a particularly designed mobile app. There are pluses and minuses both ways -- for instance, fewer users may be inclined to put a mobile app on the phone, while anyone can look up a mobile site over their smartphone browser. On the other hand, mobile apps can be more personal and create a ‘walled garden’ for customers. Some experts recommend using both to augment an existing mobile-friendly design.

Leverage Social Media

Of course, a big part of the business mandate for mobile engagement involves social media, but there are particular strategies that are critically important, especially for local businesses.

One excellent example is creating Facebook events. With so many people planning their schedules around their Facebook events, a local business can drive excellent word of mouth and get people in the door, just by creating sequences of well-designed Facebook events that reach out to the community particular ways. This is especially true for food service businesses or other businesses that are public spaces -- where businesses want to drive the physical meet-ups and get people to physically walk into a store or business location.

Alerts

Another way to drive engagement is through a system of smartphone alerts. These alerts can go to an e-mail inbox or, again, through an app. Alerts are often used by local government offices, schools, etc. But they work for businesses, too. When smartphone users sign up, they're creating long-term engagement that's worth it's weight in gold.

All of these and other mobile-friendly strategies help the business to make sure it's not getting left behind in an age where catering to the smartphone user is so important. WebSubstance can help a company to develop a full-spectrum strategy for the web and mobile. We have an excellent track record of supporting companies in their efforts to upgrade their marketing to reach the new digital consumer, and to really compete in tough and competitive markets.

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2016 Trends in Local SEO

These days, quite a number of companies are getting serious about developing a local web footprint.

The idea is that businesses exist in communities, and that they should market directly to their communities, online as well as in a bricks and mortar space. Here are some of the trends we've seen in 2015, and more that we can expect to continue with local SEO in 2016 and beyond.

Using Local Identifiers: Putting Yourself on the Map

One of the major trends in local SEO and web design is the addition of local branding and contact information to not just the contact page, but to as many pages as possible. To understand how this works, think about a big corporate website where you can't find any local phone numbers, addresses or leadership names. You may have just a simple contact form, or a global phone number located in some other country. It makes you feel like no one can reach the company, that it only exists in a vague Internet nether-world.

Local identifying is the opposite of that. Companies work hard to get a local phone number and address on every single page, or on the majority of pages, with specialized object designs. They try to promote visibility of local information across the web site, so that whether people are at the desktop or on a smartphone, they can figure out exactly where the business is and how to reach it.

Local Tagging and SEO Factors

Businesses are also putting much more geo-specific information into titles, headers, URLs, and content. A lot of times, this will consist of a city or region descriptor, but it can also include other labels for nearby towns or parts of a metro area.

In some ways, geo-specific tagging has taken the place of dubious methods like keyword stuffing, where marketers really tried to get a barrage of random keywords into pages based on what they got from Google analytics or some other source. Local SEO factoring is keyword-intensive and labor-intensive, but it's not unethical or intrusive, unless it affects the quality of the content on the page, or it's done excessively throughout the site.

Local Partnering

Companies are also taking a local approach to link building. They're allowing local people to guest post or co-author a post. They're citing local businesses when they include hyperlinks in a page.

All of this takes the local business principle further. In a way, by constructing these tighter relationships, companies are reinventing the age-old “Main Street” business idea in a digital space. In the old days, you had physical stores next to each other in a commercial district, and customers accessed them collectively (they walked from one to another). In a new local SEO environment, you have businesses that are, again, tied to one another directly, and more accessible in those specific ways.

All of these trends are likely for local SEO in 2016. Companies want to build from where they are in the community, and take the local approach first.

At WebSubstance, we've developed a strong reputation as a firm that helps client companies to do local SEO and apply these principles to their sites. Throughout the Northern Virginia community, we've helped to create that Main Street environment with targeted localized SEO programs, content marketing, and ongoing maintenance that, all together, makes a corporate web site shine, and ties it into the communities that it serves.

Here is a fun Local Search Expert Quiz: How Much Do You Know about Local SEO?

View Survey

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Renovate Your Customer Journey - Enhance Your Customer Experience

Professional Web designers understand that one web site is not just like another -- but businesses often leave too much to chance when building their sites, and they don't understand that some design changes can make a big difference in final results.

Yes, you have a website. Yes, people can navigate there with a mouse (or even on mobile). But what do they experience when they get there? And does it move them to action, or make them feel comfortable with your business, or does it just lead to boredom or frustration?

This is what it means to look at your customer's experience or journey online. By paying attention to certain principles, businesses can really improve their customer traffic by focusing more on online outreach.

Read What Customers Read

One of the cardinal rules of effective marketing is to always look at things from the customer’s viewpoint. For example, at physical stores, walk the store the way the customer would. Start from the parking lot, where the customer starts, then come in and evaluate what you see as you enter.

The same holds true online. Business leaders should be surfing their web sites and clicking into the landing page just like a customer would, and reading the text as if they've never seen before. This is the only way to really learn what it's like for customers to browse a site.

Find “Must Haves” and “Nice to Haves”

Another key point is to figure out what customers need, and then provide it to them. Is it a set of hours or information about products? And are these at an accessible point on the site? What are the most vital things that people need, and are they able to reach them without lots of clicks?

Create a Customer Journey Map

Another component of changing your customer's journey involves planning. When you have navigated the site and figured out what customers need, make a detailed plan to get these things front and center on your business web site. This is part of the process that type A managers will like. By planning out your site work in specific ways, you get yourself closer to the eventual results that will make your customers feel better about your company.

Make It Easy

This one is almost impossible to overemphasize. Look at everything and make sure that it is easy for customers to get where they need to go. Don't settle for “it's on the website”. Make it so that everybody knows that it's on the website, and they can get it easily from their computers or smart phones.

Socialize and Share

It's also important to keep things interesting for customers. Social media is a prime example. Facebook and Twitter campaigns can pay off immensely when they are set up right. You don't want to intrude on people's lives, but giving out coupons and other kinds of natural marketing is going to increase your visibility as part of your community, no matter what you're selling.

Get to Know Your Customers

A lot of this core site work isn't going to be precisely targeted unless you know who your customers are. This is another part of getting inside your customer's shoes. They may not be like you -- they may be from different backgrounds or have different tastes. That's why you need to do careful market research and then put yourself in that person’s position, looking at your business through their eyes.

When it's time to change up your site to improve your customer's journey, WebSubstance Portfolio can help you make that trip. From the first draft up to the hustle and bustle of implementation, we’re right there with you, bringing innovative design to your plans to put your business more deeply into your customer's visual experience.

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Outreach with Business Cards – It’s Not Just A 20th Century Thing


With all the focus on social media and other digital resources today, some individuals and companies fail to keep in mind the time-tested utility of business cards.

While some types of printed materials like brochures and other literature are being phased out, people are still carrying business cards. The reason has to do with the very specific ways that we network and move within our two different digital and physical worlds.

The Real-World Networking Puzzle

Think about how people actually exchange information in the field. You walk up to someone -- maybe you're at a trade convention, or a government meeting, or some kind of demo at a local business. There's a crowd milling around. There's a lot going on. And you want to reach a specific person and introduce yourself.

In these kinds of situations, the business card is as important as the handshake. Digital tools haven't replace the handshake as an efficient way to introduce yourself -- and they haven’t replaced business cards either.

Why is that? It's because of some relatively subtle and specific types of body language that we’re all comfortable with. Most of us smart phone carriers are still not comfortable using our devices to try to get people's contact information when we’re out and about. We don't take time to take out the iPhone, type in someone's name and phone number and company information, while we’re in a crowd we’re trying to do something else in a physical environment, unless there’s no other option. Mostly, we prefer paper. In terms of easy digital swapping, we’re not quite there yet. Maybe someday, they'll make a new feature where you just rub your smartphones together and the digital business card comes from one to another, but we’re nowhere near that point.

Taking a physical business card is an activity that only takes a second. But it conveys all that critical information -- not just your name and phone number, but your job title and what you do, and who you work for and where you're located.

You could argue that business cards often make their way directly into the trash can, and in some cases you'd be right. But they're still the most effective way to exchange information when you're not behind the keyboard.

Looking at Networking and First Impressions

At Websubstance, we can help you make sure that your marketing impressions are complementary across both the digital and physical worlds. Just like you design your business card for maximum readability and impact, your website project has to be engineered in the same way. You want readers to be comfortable, and you want them to be able to access the right information quickly. You want your web project to look well-put-together, so that it gives the impression of a company with money and resources.

Let us help to achieve all of this on your website, so that you look good on the street and on the web as well.

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Are You In Control Of Your Web Project?

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Are You In Control Of Your Web Project?

Before going forward with any kind of web site creation, expansion or renovation, businesses should always understand the details of a web design or web hosting contract. Without this kind of due diligence, planners can get some very unpleasant surprises along the way.

One of the biggest examples of this relates to the use of domains that provide Internet locations for web sites. Domains are the real estate of the Internet, and just like in physical real estate, there's a lot of value floating around individual domains, domain names and addresses.

The Hosting and Domain Name Agreement

In general, a company has a hosting contract for a web site which governs where the web site data is kept, and how it is uploaded for end-users. Then there's a separate contract for the domain name, for the “address” of the web site.

Companies can administrate these details in-house, or farm them out to a third party hosting or design service. But when a company loses control of these vital resources, headaches can happen.

Holding a Domain Name Hostage

One of the biggest problems for client companies comes up if they want to change the domain name or location of the site later in the process, or when they need to review their domain name. Many domain names have to be renewed an ongoing basis, or they will be lost. So when client companies go to check on domain name status, they may find that those domain names have been bought, not by their companies, but by the hosting company. And this is where things get tricky.

Some hosting companies actually have strings attached to their hosting and design agreements. They may not agree to release the domain name to the company, or to give the company access to manage it. This may lead to the loss of the domain name, and the client company may have to go shopping for another.

WebSubstance Policy

At WebSubstance, we feel that this kind of “hostage-taking” is really unprofessional and an improper relationship between the design and hosting firm and its clients. Instead of giving our clients extra work, we help them, by joint-managing the hosting and domain name policies. But we also leave the keys on the table for you -- at any time, our clients can take control of these agreements to switch them to other providers or do anything else that they want.

Here, you'll never have to worry about getting taken advantage of with a bait and switch contract or any other kinds of situations where you don't have full access to the domain name or project. This is a basic and essential part of any good contract between the design and hosting firm and client company, so when you're in the market for Web services, don't forget to check on how you'll have access to your domain name and other aspects of the project moving forward.

Contact us now for your next project!

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Highlighting People and Processes

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"What are the biggest elements of your business? Probably the people you employ, and the processes that they work on every day. Promote both of these with a full-featured web site that really makes your company look good…."

A good web site should really represent your company well, and make everything that's involved in your business look good. But how do you start that design? What are the things that you need in a professional web site to draw in readers and achieve success in your field?

In the past, you may have heard that it's important to highlight your products and services. And it is. But this isn't where the designer's job ends. You have to have high-quality catalog pages and other resources to show off what your company offers, but you can also get a lot further with both short-term and long-term customer relationships by having online resources that show off other parts of your business.

Show Off Your People

Some of the best web sites for service companies and companies with an e-commerce component have vibrant, high functioning pages that provide high quality images, bios and other information about individual workers. Whether your people are salaried or paid hourly, or even contracting, having names and faces along with background information online can draw in potential customers. People feel well served by these aspects of the site -- they feel like they know the stakeholders and who's involved, and they get a kind of virtual introduction before they ever pick up the phone.

Show Off Your Processes

Some of the newest wisdom in the retail world and other business communities is that your company really stands out when you can show and tell people about how you accomplish what you do.

For example, a high-quality print shop will show off its in-house equipment, such as large banner printers, in high-quality online information pages. A cleaning company might provide step-by-step pages that show how professionals work on properties.

These kinds of virtual conversations give people confidence in your firm. In a world where so many companies have drab, plain web sites, having yours stand out in these ways can really be a springboard to higher conversion rates, and more success in your community.

WebSubstance can help you develop a web site that can do all of these things -- highlighting products, people and processes for more response from your target audiences. We help with the core design and programming work, along with all of those value-added extras like photography, excellent content writing, and the setup of consistent platforms that will preserve your particular style across your entire web site. Let us work with you to make your company site a winner.

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Contact Us

WebSubstance
21800 Town Center Plaza, #266A-281
Sterling, VA 20164
(703) 470-0808
Jenny Le - President
contact.info@WebSubstance.com